Optimizing Biorefinery Design and Operations via Linear Programming Models

Michael Talmadge, Liaw Batan, Ling Tao, Eric Tan, Patrick Lamers, Damon Hartley, Mary Biddy

Research output: NRELPoster


The ability to assess and optimize economics of biomass resource utilization for the production of fuels, chemicals and power is essential for the ultimate success of a bioenergy industry. The team of authors, consisting of members from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and the Idaho National Laboratory (INL), has developed simple biorefinery linear programming (LP) models to enable the optimization of theoretical or existing biorefineries. The goal of this analysis is to demonstrate how such models can benefit the developing biorefining industry. It focuses on a theoretical multi-pathway, thermochemical biorefinery configuration and demonstrates how the biorefinery can use LP models for operations planning and optimization in comparable ways to the petroleum refining industry. Using LP modeling tools developed under U.S. Department of Energy's Bioenergy Technologies Office (DOE-BETO) funded efforts, the authors investigate optimization challenges for the theoretical biorefineries such as (1) optimal feedstock slate based on available biomass and prices, (2) breakeven price analysis for available feedstocks, (3) impact analysis for changes in feedstock costs and product prices, (4) optimal biorefinery operations during unit shutdowns / turnarounds, and (5) incentives for increased processing capacity. These biorefinery examples are comparable to crude oil purchasing and operational optimization studies that petroleum refiners perform routinely using LPs and other optimization models. It is important to note that the analyses presented in this article are strictly theoretical and they are not based on current energy market prices. The pricing structure assigned for this demonstrative analysis is consistent with $4 per gallon gasoline, which clearly assumes an economic environment that would favor the construction and operation of biorefineries. The analysis approach and examples provide valuable insights into the usefulness of analysis tools for maximizing the potential benefits of biomass utilization for production of fuels, chemicals and power.
Original languageAmerican English
StatePublished - 2016

Publication series

NamePresented at the Symposium on Thermal and Catalytic Sciences for Biofuels and Biobased Products (TCS 2016), 1-4 November 2016, Chapel Hill, North Carolina

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/PO-5100-67346


  • biochemicals
  • biofuels
  • biomass
  • biopower
  • biorefinery
  • feedstock
  • linear programmning
  • thermochemical


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